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Ulcerative Colitis


What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the colon (large intestine). Ulcers (sores) form on the inner lining of your colon and cause bleeding and inflammation.

What increases my risk for ulcerative colitis?

The cause of ulcerative colitis is not known. The following may increase your risk:

  • A family history of ulcerative colitis
  • A medical condition or stress prevents your immune system from functioning well
  • A virus or bacteria that caused inflammation in your colon
  • NSAID pain or arthritis medicine

What are the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fatigue and pale skin
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Loss of bowel movement control
  • Slow growth and development in children

How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?

  • A bowel movement sample may show the germ causing your illness. This helps your healthcare provider learn what medicine is best to treat you.
  • A barium enema is an x-ray of the colon. A tube is put into your anus, and a liquid called barium is put through the tube. Barium is used so that healthcare providers can see your colon better on the x-ray film.
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy are procedures used to help your healthcare provider see the inside of your colon. He will use a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end. During a sigmoidoscopy, he will only look at your rectum and lower colon. During a colonoscopy, he will look at the full length of your colon. He may remove a small amount of tissue from the colon for a biopsy.

How is ulcerative colitis treated?

  • Medicines may be given to help decrease inflammation or control your immune system.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove part or all of your colon. Ask about the different kinds of surgery that can be done to help your symptoms.

What are the risks of ulcerative colitis?

If not treated, ulcerative colitis may lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and severe anemia (low blood iron). Ulcerative colitis may increase your risk for colorectal cancer and may also affect other parts of the body. You may have swelling of your joints, eyes, or mouth. You may also have an increased risk for skin problems, kidney stones, gallstones, spine problems, and liver disease.

How can I manage my ulcerative colitis?

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. This helps you have more energy and heal faster. Healthy foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Do not eat foods that make your symptoms worse. Your healthcare provider may give you vitamins or minerals to improve your nutrition if you have severe ulcerative colitis.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Adults should drink between 9 and 13 eight-ounce cups of liquid every day. Ask what amount is best for you. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, and milk. Do not drink alcohol. This can make your symptoms worse.
  • Get more exercise. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can help prevent constipation, decrease your blood pressure, and improve your health.
  • Manage stress. Stress may slow healing and cause illness. Learn new ways to relax, such as deep breathing.
  • Do not take NSAID medicines. NSAIDs can cause flare-ups. Flare-ups are when your symptoms become worse.

Where can I find more information?

  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
    2 Information Way
    Bethesda , MD 20892-3570
    Phone: 1- 800 - 891-5389
    Web Address:
  • Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, Inc.
    386 Park Avenue S, 17th Floor
    New York , NY 10016-8004
    Phone: 1- 800 - 932-2423
    Web Address:

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.
  • You have a fast heart rate, fast breathing, or are too dizzy to stand up.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • Your vomit has blood in it or looks like coffee grounds.
  • You see blood in your bowel movement.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever, chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have abdominal pain that does not go away or gets worse after you take medicine.
  • Your abdomen is swollen.
  • You lose weight without trying.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Ulcerative Colitis

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference